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  • Mark D. Hill

The History Of The Negroni Cocktail

Ahh, the Negroni. It's a strong, sophisticated classic. When you tire of bells, whistles and tiny umbrellas, this cocktail is something to come back to time and time again. But even though you can confidently order this Italian staple in any cocktail bar, the history behind it is not as widely known. Curious to delve into the Negroni's history? Let's take a little jaunt.

What is a Negroni?

The Negroni is a staple Italian aperitif made with equal parts gin, sweet red vermouth and Campari bitters. Mix in a mixing glass full of ice until it feels cold - then pour into a tumbler containing a large ice cube, and top with a slice of orange - or even better, an orange zest twist. The garnish is an important detail that enriches the drink with the vibrant bittersweet essential oils, perfectly completing the ensemble.

How was Negroni invented?

The Negroni cocktail was first created over a hundred years ago in 1919, in the heart of Florence. One day, count Camillo Negroni strolled into his beloved bar and ordered his favourite cocktail: the Americano. This was traditionally a mix of Campari and sweet vermouth, topped with some sparkling water.

Only, that day the count felt a bit more adventurous. He asked his friend and bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to enhance the drink in some way. As a talented mixologist, Scarelli decided to replace soda water with something a tad stronger, reaching for a bottle of gin, thus creating the first-ever Negroni cocktail.

The resulting bittersweet cocktail was a huge success. Jumping on the opportunity, the count and his family soon established a Negroni distillery in Treviso. It's still in action to this day!

The popularity of the Negroni

The Negroni cocktail proudly holds its place as one of the most popular drinks in cocktail history. So much so, there even exists worldwide Negroni week. For seven days a year for the last decade, the owners of bars, restaurants and alcohol retailers worldwide have celebrated the craftsmanship of this classic cocktail - whilst raising funds for charitable causes at the same time. This year, Negroni week returns for its 11th run, from the 18th to the 24th of September 2023. We're sure to see plenty of stirringly delicious experiences on the agenda.

The modern-day Negroni

Nothing can beat a classic. But that doesn’t mean there's no place for creativity in the modern cocktail world. Despite there being little wiggle room in the core structure of the Negroni, bartenders of the world have been coming up with their own twists on it for years now. This tradition probably started in the 70s, with the invention of the first variation: Negroni Sbagliato.


Negroni Sbagliato

Translated from Italian, the word sbagliato means 'wrong'. That hasn't prevented this twist on the Negroni becoming a worldwide success. The Negroni Sbagliato was developed in the 1970s by a bartender at Milan's legendary Bar Basso. As the story goes, the barman mistakenly reached for a bottle of sparkling prosecco instead of the gin whilst making a Negroni for a customer. Fortunately, the customer loved it.

This cocktail is a perfect aperitif for those who prefer their drinks on the lighter side, with a delicate balance between the sweetness of the vermouth and prosecco, with the bitterness of Campari. It's an irresistible concoction - perfect before dinner.


Cynar Negroni

Another well-established twist is the Cynar Negroni, which swaps out the Campari for Cynar, a bitter Italian liqueur. Surprisingly, Cynar is predominantly made from artichokes - though the overall flavour of this herbal tipple is earthy, herbaceous and bittersweet. The brown colour of the Cynar also turns the cocktail deep brown instead of red.


Other Negroni variations

The imagination of a true mixologist truly has no limitations. It seems like every bar and restaurant has its own negroni riffs nowadays, from a cold brew coffee Negroni to truffle-infused recipes. And while we think the classic remains unbeaten, we love trying new riffs on this simple three-part cocktail.


Meet our own modern take: The Boxer Negroni

We love a Negroni - so we decided to make our own, using our Boxer gin. To make it, we collaborated with the original Negroni Antica distillery in Treviso, which has been creating these aperitifs for over 100 years.

Though the classic Negroni recipe only calls for three simple ingredients, finding the right balance between them is of the utmost importance. Our juniper-forward Boxer Gin combines perfectly with the sweetness of red Torino vermouth and the quinine bitterness of amaro. We finish it all off with a dash of mandarin bitters. It's aromatic, not too sweet, and with a good kick.

The pleasure of a pre-mixed cocktail is the simplicity of the experience. All you need to do is pour two 50ml shots into a chilled cocktail glass filled with ice cubes, and garnish with an orange twist. We like to break down a slice of orange peel above the drink, releasing its essential oils, and then gently rub it around the rim of the glass. Decadent, delicious and classic.

Want to try a taste of Florence in your own home? Try our perfectly balanced Boxer Negroni here - or order the best gin for Negroni you could ever ask for.

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Feb 20, 2023

QI fact - the negroni was created in Caffè Casoni - which is still trading but under the name "The Giacosa Café". To complicate things further the cafe is also referred to locally as "Café Cavalli" due to its association to the famous Italian designer, Roberto Cavalli and his flagship boutique located next door. He is said to have preferred Vodka!

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